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Wholeness & Wellness Journal
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Volume 15 Issue 5
January/February 2010

Eat Well! Food as a Vital Part of Our Spiritual Journey

Better Health in a Teacup

Help Yourself with Colour Therapy

Breath, Body, and Voice Work, Fitzmaurice Voicework®

Singing: It's About Having Fun and Feeling Good

Meditation Enhances Physical and Mental Health

Wounded Healers: Finding Our Sacred Paths Together


Breath, Body, and Voice Work
Fitzmaurice Voicework®

by Traci Foster
Traci Foster

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness,
which unites your body to your thoughts.
—Thich Nhat Hanh

…when we are expanding our understanding of breath and working with it, we are also deepening our spirituality.

It is with us throughout our entire life, whether we acknowledge it or not. It is a relatively silent companion most of the time, but can be audible in varying experiences. It is usually gentle, but can also be very erratic—just think of the last time you experienced great pleasure or conversely were very worked up. I am referring to your breath—your energy—the two are intricately and intimately related!

The Chinese word “chi” means both “breath” and “life-force”. In Sanskrit, “prana” means “vital energy”, “breath”, or “life-force”. Breath is the metaphor for spirit and soul in Hindu and Taoist traditions. In my experience, we do not always take this into consideration when speaking of our breath and/or energy; we overlook the reality that, when we are expanding our understanding of breath and working with it, we are also deepening our spirituality.

When I first began doing breath and voice work I found it difficult to endure. Relaxing made me nervous. I would often find myself feeling more anxious, or even blinded by a migraine or preoccupied by an upset stomach. It wasn’t until I began exploring the expressive arts that I realized that I needed to move, vocalize, or express how I was feeling in order to release tension and relax. My exhale, or in other words my innate ability to let go, was inhibited. This is where my work began—personally and professionally. I became passionately dedicated to the creative process through expressive arts and therapies which included breath, body, and voice work. I found this to be the most grounded yet playful way of undoing tension and developing self-awareness, presence, and confidence.

Whether I am teaching or performing, my work begins with the use of relaxation through breath and bodywork in order to become fully present and aware with the self, others, and the environment. From here self-expression follows using such things as personal narrative, movement, story, song, speech, etcetera.

Catherine Fitzmaurice founded Fitzmaurice Voicework. She discovered that many performers had difficulty expressing truthfully when they were vulnerable or nervous. Catherine was interested in finding ways of releasing tension quickly, so her students could speak clearly while being emotionally connected. Fitzmaurice Voicework was developed in order to offer a creative and integrated approach to this challenge.

The first part of the work—Destructuring—is used to release tension and blocks in the muscles used directly for breathing. The second part of the work—Restructuring—is used to develop a healthy relationship with our breath action, in order to keep tension at bay when expressing our self. This way we are more relaxed, present, and resonant when speaking, singing, or simply being.

When working with Fitzmaurice Voicework, clients are taken into various physical positions to begin to experience their breath while certain areas of the body are expanded or open. Clients are encouraged to continually release tension in the torso and the muscles directly related to the breath, to allow their breath and energy to become deeper and fuller. Eventually, this allows a person to become more present—physically, emotionally, and vocally.

Once the breath is moving freely in a wave-like motion—our inherent breathing pattern—a client is invited to allow subtle sound to ride out on the breath—the exhale. Here they will not only hear the sound that they are expressing, but also feel the vibration of the sound in and around them. This is a very important part of breath and voice work—feeling the experience.

Why would you want to feel the vibration of sound? The reason is two-fold: first, the vibration informs us of where we are open and where we are holding, consciously and unconsciously. It acts as a guide in this process. Second, resonance or vibration is a big part of what we understand as “presence” or “being present”. Once the individual is able to experience this, physically and vocally, with freedom and focus, they can begin to explore their personal goals—often this has to do with relating more intimately with self and others.

The work often cultivates a rejuvenated sense of fun and play for clients. Laughter is a familiar by-product and is often triggered, as a result of the diaphragm releasing. This diaphragmatic release can also activate our pleasure reflex. In this state of expansion, we can begin to safely connect to our feelings and emotions! Fitzmaurice Voicework connects us to our self! Expressing from here—a present and embodied state of being—often frees the individual for more ease and comfort in his or her own humanity.

When doing breath, body, voice work, the client can choose to engage in this creative process in any number of ways, or for any number of reasons. Some of the benefits of this work are that it:

• relaxes your body
• lowers stress
• rejuvenates spiritual awareness
• enhances presence and awareness
• frees your (natural) voice
• enhances emotional connection
• improves freedom of expression
• enhances play, pleasure, sensuality, and fun
• stimulates cognitive function—focus, alertness, and concentration
• increases resonance and range for speaking, singing, or sounding
• improves muscle control, flexibility, and movement/athletic skills
• increases social awareness, empathy, and compassion

Whether I am teaching or coaching privately or in a group, I believe in creating a safe space for you to have fun while exploring vocally and creatively. In my experience, this provides the most effective foundation for personal transformation and professional development.

As a wise and wonderful man once said to me, “Work on your voice, work on your self—work on yourself, work on your voice!” I leave you with this in hopes that our paths may cross…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Traci Foster is Canada’s only certified Fitzmaurice teacher. She is a performing artist and educator who is practicing at home in Regina, SK, and in Los Angeles, CA. For more info please visit her website at www.tracifoster.com or call (306) 525-1228. Also see the Directory of Services ad on page 28 of the 15.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.


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